Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 70: Sanctification – Freedom from Sin
March 25, 2012
This week I had a root canal. I knew it might be coming, but when the dentist said, “You need a root canal. I have time now; do you want to do it?” Everything in me wanted to say, “I’ll take care of it later.”
I stalled by asking, “Are they as bad as they say?” He said, “Depends. If the decay has gone too deep, we can’t numb the pain.” So I knew putting it off would only make it worse, but I REALLY did not want to do it.
While I was having this internal argument, I heard my voice say, “Then let’s do it now...but I want laughing gas.” Laughing gas is my friend.
* As we go from Romans 5 to 6, Paul’s shifts from justification to sanctification, from being forgiven to becoming righteous.
Scripture reading: Romans 6:12-14 (Leeann Kelley)
Free to sin?
Last week I gave an illustration that really bothered a lot of you. I was trying to describe what grace looks like, and how if you are a Christian and have accepted God’s grace then you are forgiven and loved even in the midst of your sin.
So I said imagine a man having an affair, and dying in a car wreck on his way home, before he repents, before he even feels bad about his sin.
* For some reason that illustration did not go over well!
Q I am saying that we can say a little prayer and then get away with doing whatever we want?
Q Does that mean that God is never angry at our sins?
Q Why should we even try to do what is right?
Q How on earth is that just?
Those are all very good questions, and reading Romans, you can see that Paul’s readers were asking the very same questions, because he asks it for them in the next section:
Romans 6:15a What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
Paul, are you saying that since we are saved by grace and salvation doesn’t come by obeying the law sinning is ok?
In at my Christian high school, I remember being so excited to hear the “bad kid” got saved. When I talked about with him about it, he said, “Yeah, and the best part is I don’t have to give up smoking, or drinking, or sleeping with my girlfriend.”
His statement left me stunned. I knew that didn’t sound right, but I didn’t really know how to respond.
Q So was this kid right? What does Paul say to that?
Romans 6:15b By no means!
The Greek behind “by no means” is pretty much the strongest way to say “no” in Greek. Translations include, “Absolutely not!”, “God forbid!”, and “That’s unthinkable!”
Gotta serve somebody
Q And why is it unthinkable?
Romans 6:16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Paul is saying that there is no middle ground; either you are a slave to sin or a slave to obedience. It like that old Bob Dylan song, “You’ve Got to Serve Somebody.”
* Either you are moving towards God and righteousness or towards sin and death – there is no third option.
sin’s end game
Q If we were to ask “do you want to be a slave to sin or to obedience?” what do you think most people would answer?
Said that way, we think “slave to sin” sound more fun, but that is because we are too short term in our thinking. Skipping a couple of verses:
Romans 6:20-21 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
* Sitting there in the dentist chair, everything in me wanted to avoid the root canal, but I knew the result of that game plan.
Paul is saying, “Let’s think about this: All those times you knowingly did what we wrong, how much are still ‘enjoying’ it?”
All the lies you told and knowing that there are still people who don’t trust you.
All of the broken relationship because of your selfishness.
Being stuck in the same rut because of your laziness.
The expression translated “result in death” means “the end of.” If you start on that path, that path ends up in death.
* Sin is fun for a season, but it leads to death; it is like drugs – it’s a blast at the time but it ends up using you.
Sin is appealing when we ignore long term consequences: “Party like there is no tomorrow!” But there is a tomorrow, and a tomorrow after that, and one after that.
BTW: Out of the frying pan, into the fire
You know what is so tragically ironic? So often the reason we sin is to avoid suffering, but only end up with more suffering.
* “The Devil has a shortcut through every problem.” Larry Wersen
Are you lonely? Here is a bad relationship.
Do you need money? Cheat just a little on your taxes.
Are you depressed? Polish off a bottle of whiskey, alone.
Disconnected from your wife? Surf for porn.
Q How many of your sins have been the result of dealing with your suffering in ungodly ways?
Paul is saying is that sin brings death. The more you understand sin, the less you see it as something you get away with.
* God’s grace doesn’t just save us from the penalty of sin, it saves us from the sin itself.
The movie “Amazing Grace” tell the story of William Wilberforce as he works to abolish slavery in Great Britain. He spends time with John Newton, who had been a slaver trader, was saved and later went onto write “Amazing Grace.”
In one powerful scene, Newton confronts the horrors of slave trading, all the human beings who suffered so miserably on the ships, who died along the way, and who suffered in slavery.
* Newton did not look back and say, “Look what I got away with!” No, it was God’s grace that got him out of that sin.
I hope you get that “death” doesn’t mean literally death, or Hell. It is the destruction sin does to you along the way.
God’s goal in salvation is not simply to forgive us and restore us to relationship with him, it is to restore us, to save us from the sin that destroys us.
* To put is crudely, salvation saves you from going to Hell, but it doesn’t save you from the bringing Hell to you.
It kills me that so many believers who are freed from Hell so willingly bring it back into them.
* The purpose of the adultery illustration wasn’t to encourage affairs!
It was to help us grasp how generous God is in forgiveness and mercy. If he can forgive the adulterer and murder, I can trust that he can forgive me.
Thinking back to my classmate, here is what I wished I had said to him: You are right, you don’t have to give those things up, instead, God is freeing you from them.
the sin of rebellion
Let add as a warning: As I said last week, if you continually and willingly rebel against God, you are doing profound damage to your soul.
We have always heard it said that “all sin is the same to God.” That is partially true, but mostly false and false in some very damaging way.
* It is true in that sin in general has separated us from God and that it is all equally forgiven through Christ.
But it is patently false when it comes to effects. Some sin is far more damaging than others. Some sin damages other people more, some sin damages ourselves more. And I pretty sure that willful rebellion damages our relationship with God the most.
When we sin out of ignorance, we only suffer the effects of the sin itself, but when we willing sin, we suffer both the effects of the sin and the effects of the rebellion.
Like all sins, rebellion is easily forgiven, but not easily healed. It leaves marks on your soul that can only be healed through obedience.
Let me add a more controversial note: I believe we may walk so far and so long in rebellion we walk away from God entirely.
* I say this is controversial because Christians argue about whether or not Christians can lose their salvation.
Said another way, I do not believe in eternal security. I don’t think it is an easy thing to walk away from God, but it must be possible or else the Bible wouldn’t warn against it.
* It is “technically possible, but practically improbable.”
But on the other hand, it is also largely irrelevant: The question is not “Can someone lose their salvation?” but “Are you continuing to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?”
Here is one of those “scary Scriptures” that we like to avoid but need to pay attention to:
Hebrews 10:26-27 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
The key point is “keep on sinning;” this is not a one-time thing, but an ongoing thing. As long as you care whether or not this is about you, it isn’t, even if you care after not caring.
But again, I believe it is possible that you can walk long and far enough that you can walk away from God entirely. That would have to be a very long journey, but it begins when you intentionally and willfully sin.
That is the bad news. The good news:
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
As a believer, you are freed from sin. Obviously that does not mean that we stop sinning, but rather we are set free from the power of sin.
* Grace is not the freedom to sin, but the freedom from sin.
Grace doesn’t only mean forgiveness from sin, but it is the entire spectrum of God’s gifts, which include the ways in which he helps us be free from sin:
1. God’s grace gives the wisdom to see sin for what it is: Death.
2. God’s grace sets us free from sin’s desire. This isn’t an instant or magic thing, but an ongoing process, where we learn to enjoy holiness more and sin less.
* It’s like teaching our kids to enjoy wholesome food more than candy.
3. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to do what is right. He doesn’t make us do what is right, but gives us the power.
* It’s like power steering, but if you don’t want victory, don’t expect victory.
4. God sets us free from sin’s despair – God hasn’t given up on us, neither should we.
It isn’t fair
Paul ends with this memorable statement:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Notice what it says: The wages of sin – death is what we have earned. And it is what we continue to earn when we sin. By God’s grace we don’t have to get that paycheck.
* But eternal life is a gift, unearned because we can’t earn it.
Even as I want us to clearly understand grace and justification doesn’t mean we get away with sin, I need for us to return to this message of grace:
* We all deserves death and should be grateful we don’t get it.
Psalm 130:3-4 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
Getting away with murder
Returning one last time to my illustration about the adulterer: The reason it was so inflammatory was because it sounds like he is getting away with sin.
As I have shown, no one ever got away with sin, but we should be far less concerned with what someone else is supposedly getting away with and more about what we have gotten away with.
* In the end, it is their story, God is working with them, and we don’t need to do his job.
I am speaking to myself as much as any of you. I want things done right. It galls me when people work the system.
* At Starbucks, I hate it when people take advantage of our refill policy.
I am like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. After the rebellious son has come home and repented and been restored:
Luke 15:28-32 The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” 31 “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Too often, when preachers talk about this, they emphasize the consequences of the younger brother’s sin; but that is not the point.
Q What he if bought back all the property and gave the younger son his inheritance back?
The point is God is gracious. And that is good news because if he is gracious to the younger brother, we may be sure he will give grace to the older as well.
I know that I am speaking to a couple of different crowds:
There are the Christians who view grace as a chance to sin more – begin by asking God to help you see sin as something to be freedom from.
There are Christians who are struggling with God’s grace to others. Ask for a heart of mercy.
Or there are non-Christians who are still slaves to your sin. You may or may not feel enslaved, but that is beside the point. Your sin has separated you from God.
Q & A